COLUMBIA, South Carolina — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) heaped contempt on President Barack Obama’s executive overreach in a speech to University of South Carolina students here Tuesday morning, saying that Obama is behaving like a banana republic dictator.
Paul’s harshest criticism of Obama came when he criticized the administration for launching airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) without congressional authorization for doing so.
“The president says that ‘if Congress won’t act, I must.’ That sounds like what you hear from a third world autocrat,” Paul said. “That doesn’t sound like someone who believes in a Republic and rule of law. ‘If Congress won’t act, I will’? Congress is too messy for him. Democracy is too messy for him so he’s just going to do whatever the hell he wants.”
The Kentucky Republican clarified that “I think we do have to do something now about ISIS,” and that the terrorist group is “potentially a threat to us — similar to the way Al Qaeda was in 1998 or so. I think we should do something, but the president is going about it the wrong way.”
Paul continued on Obama’s aggressive use of unilateral authority.
“That worries me and it should worry all of us. And it hasn’t been just with war powers. It’s been with immigration, it’s been with healthcare-he’s acted outside the law and we have basically a constitutional confrontation now between an overbearing and arrogant executive who doesn’t believe in the law and a Congress that hasn’t really stepped up to enforce the law,” Paul said.
In the speech and in an interview with Breitbart News afterwards, Paul referred to “my candidacy” in comparison with other potential 2016 presidential candidates, suggesting that a White House bid, while not official, is likely.
Paul said Americans have a choice to make moving forward into the midterm elections and the next presidential election–in which he is likely to run for the GOP nomination.
“As we look at all of these issues and as you look at your future as we move forward, you’ll have to make a decision in life,” Paul said. “Go one direction or another–not specifically one party or the other, but what you have to decide is whether you want to go towards more freedom for the individual or more power for the state.”
Paul focused much of his speech directly at issues the young people–about 100 or so University of South Carolina students–there to see him speak in the early presidential state a few weeks out from the midterm elections, talking about student loans and technology privacy concerns.
“I think young people are interested and intrigued and want to hear about the right to privacy,” Paul said in an interview afterwards, joking that he’s impressed that so many college students were awake and present at the event before 11 a.m. “Young people’s lives revolve around their cell phone, they don’t have a lot of money, they don’t have a lot of assets. They don’t care so much about taxes or regulations but they do care about the privacy on their cell phones and they don’t understand why the government would collect their records without probable cause. I think that does bring out a lot of young people.”
On student loans, Paul pitched a plan to help college kids and their families that doesn’t involve loan forgiveness–just restructuring the tax code to help families better deduct expenses from student loans to make it easier to pay them off.
“You have some on the left who says that’s just unfair so let’s just change your contracts, let’s change the past, and give people what they want,” Paul said. “This is typically what you hear from progressives–it’s not their money so they don’t care about taking somebody else’s money. But here I think there is a way we could help students with their student loans. Currently your interest rates–the interest you pay on a certain loan–is capped. You’re not allowed to deduct if you get paid above a certain level, or if your parents make above a certain level they’re not allowed to deduct. I have a bill that would remove those limits so that every parent in America can deduct the interest from their kids’ student loans, or you can deduct it as well. I also have a bill that would raise the tax credit–there’s currently a $2,000 tax credit but you lose it if your parents make above a certain amount or if you make above a certain amount. We remove that limit and we also let you deduct the entire amount.”
Paul said there’s a “danger” with the government “overturning contracts” because contracts are “the stability and that’s the fabric of what your society is build upon,” adding that the left’s plans could set America on a slippery slope to undermine the rule of law setting the U.S. back as a first world country.
“People talk about why are we a first world country versus a third world country–it’s the rule of law,” Paul said. “Much of the capital formation in our country comes from when you have secure title of your house. If you don’t have secure title of your house then bank loans aren’t the law if the government can come in and change them after the fact. That’s the definition of arbitrary government and that’s what makes third world countries such a disaster is that nobody wants to invest if your contracts aren’t secure.”
Paul also later on brought up the national debt, and mentioned it again during questioning saying he agrees with Admiral Mike Mullen who said the national debt is America’s biggest security risk.
At the event, Paul communications director Sergio Gor told Breitbart News three leftwing trackers-political operatives who wield video cameras to record statements to attack their political opponents-were present: one from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), another from pro-Hillary Clinton operative David Brock-run group American Bridge and another from a local leftwing group.
“I think the left believes that they can beat any of the cookie-cutter Republican candidates,” Paul said when asked by Breitbart News in the interview backstage afterwards why he thinks the left is targeting him so much more than other potential 2016 GOP candidates. “I think they fear me because I am outside the mold and I will attract Democrats and Independents and that I can create new constituencies that would allow the Republican Party to win again. I think the Democrats are more concerns about my candidacy than about some of the others.”
When asked about the beheading of an Oklahoma woman by a radical Islamist, Paul said the government needs to treat this as an act of terror not “workplace violence.”
“What went on in Oklahoma is and has and should be related to our approach towards terrorism and towards radical Islam,” Paul told Breitbart News. “If we want to prevent things like this from happening, we need to know who’s radicalized and where and who’s involved with this. When people are preaching violence they need to be investigated.”
Paul added that he thinks the federal government is currently “downplaying” what happened there and that’s a “real disservice” to the fight against radical Islam.
“I think they need to do more and I think by downplaying it they’re doing a real disservice to the real battle we have with certain elements of radical Islam,” Paul said. “So to try to call this workplace violence is I think a misnomer and inappropriate and it’s a way of trying to lessen something that is important. There is radical Islam both here and abroad.”
During the question-and-answer session after his remarks with the University of South Carolina students, Paul mentioned his trademark issue: Audit the Fed, and how he’s fighting for that still every day in Congress. A bill just recently passed the House of Representatives with widespread bipartisan support–scores of Democrats crossed the aisle to support it–but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has blocked all votes on Paul’s proposals.
“I’ve been actually talking to him [Reid] both publicly and privately trying to get a vote on audit the fed for several years now,” Paul told Breitbart News. “I at times thought I was very close and that he was going to let me have a vote, and I still think there’s some chance that in a lame duck session he might let me have a vote. But I haven’t always been able to predict Sen. Reid’s behavior or decision-making process. I thought I was also close on getting a vote on the repatriation, lowering the tax to let money come home and in the end he didn’t act on that. So we’ll see. But I’m going to keep pushing for a vote on audit the fed, and this is the second time I think it’s passed the House and it passed with what 350 votes? There’s overwhelming bipartisan support for it.”